The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Michigan has won a three-year, $800,000 federal grant to help caregivers identify people with disabilities who develop the degenerative memory condition.
The Southfield nonprofit will work with several other nonprofits with the goal of training some 2,000 caregivers and providers of services to those with disabilities in an effort to “make people (with the dual diagnoses) feel safer and give them a sense of dignity,” said Elizabeth Fritz-Cottle.
She is the development manager at the Alzheimer Association - Greater Michigan chapter who wrote the grant approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The ultimate vision is to make sure that people with developmental disabilities and Alzheimer’s can live in their home safely and with a good quality of life,” she said.
The partners and their constituents, including direct care staff and family members, are to be trained with the hope that the curricula and training are absorbed and used within agencies for years to come, Fritz-Cottle said.
About 11 percent of Americans older than 65 have Alzheimer’s, she said, adding that those affected include 19,000 in Oakland, 14,000 in Macomb and 26,000 in Wayne counties.
The collaborators include JARC of Farmington Hills, Community Living Centers, Inc., of Farmington, Community Living Services of Wayne and Oakland, the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center of Clinton Township and Auburn Hills, Neighborhood Services Organization and the Wayne Center, ARC of Northwest Detroit, Angels’ Place of Southfield and a consulting-evaluation firm.
Basic signs of Alzheimer’s can include behaviors that limit social skills such as a lack of interaction with others, difficulty completing a familiar task such as dressing or recognizing familiar places and people, said Fritz-Cottle.
“We’ve already started the initial collaboration with our partners,” she said, noting three staff members from the association have been tasked with training. “We are determining what kinds of training will be most effective.”
Training time and the number of training sessions will vary from agency to agency, Fritz-Cottle said.
One of the partners, MORC, is starting the training on March 11 for MORC staff, direct support professionals, families and any other interested caregivers, said Diane Lindsay, director of Clinical Operations.
“It is my hope that this training will enable us to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” Lindsay said. “The training is intended to assist professionals and caregivers with identification of the symptoms, support strategies, and ways to keep people engaged in life.”
So far, she said there is enthusiasm among agencies that take care of people with disabilities to identify those with Alzheimer’s, Fritz-Cottle said.
“Every single provider we have brought to the table is passionate, committed and recognizes the need for this type of training.”
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.